United States

United States

Icebreaker approved, but with conditions that make it 'economically unviable'

The US’ first freshwater wind farm in the Great Lakes has finally been given the green light, but with operating constrictions that are “fatal” to the development.

A simulation of how Icebreaker's six turbines will look from the shore of Lake Erie (pic credit: LeedCo)
A simulation of how Icebreaker's six turbines will look from the shore of Lake Erie (pic credit: LeedCo)

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Despite the approval, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LeedCo) might not proceed with its 20.7MW Icebreaker Icebreaker (20.7MW) Offshoreoff Cleveland, Ohio, USA, North America Click to see full details wind farm it is developing with Fred Olsen Renewables, its president said.

The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) unanimously approved the project’s construction, but attached 33 conditions for its construction and operation. It was the last of 14 federal, state, and local agencies to approve construction. 

The most onerous of these conditions was the order that turbines must not rotate overnight between 1 March and 1 November, until the developers can provide data showing no adverse impact on birds and bats.

LeedCo president David Karpinski said this condition “may well be fatal to the entire project”, and added: “Throughout the OPSB proceedings in this case, we made it abundantly clear that a requirement to shut down the turbines from dusk to dawn for the majority of the year renders the project economically not viable.”

He also said that the condition came as a surprise and that LeedCo only learned of it in the press release issued by the OPSB.

Karpinski added: “LeedCo will need to reconvene in the coming days and examine our options on how and whether we can move forward.”

Icebreaker is due to comprise six MHI Vestas V126-3.45MW turbines installed on suction-bucket foundations. It could come online in 2022 although 2024 was the original timetable.

Opposition

The project has faced opposition from bird advocacy groups including the Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the American Bird Conservancy.

The opposition has also been funded by Murray Energy, the country’s largest private coal company, based near Cleveland. 

In a financial statement, the coal company listed 11 payments to law firm Benesch, Friedlander, Coplan & Aronoff, which opposed the project, totalling $993,628.88.

Murray Energy declared bankruptcy in October 2019.

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